As Snow Ends, Collapses, Flooding Are New Concerns In Western New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The FDNY has sent a team to help with snow removal in western New York where snow Thursday brought the Buffalo area’s three-day total to an epic 7 feet or more.

Early Friday morning, about 35 members of the FDNY’s Incident Management Team left Randalls Island for Buffalo, where more than 30 roof collapses were reported overnight, officials said.

“Is it intimidating? Absolutely. Seven feet of snow is above our heads,” FDNY incident commander Jim Kane told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

The team will provide logistical support and track the snow removal equipment on loan from across the state. It has previously helped with forest fires, Hurricane Katrina, Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy.

“We’ve done this in the past. Our most recent time was with Sandy, about two years ago, handling hundreds of resources at that time,” Kane told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “We come in, we help manage resources for them. We don’t go in to take over their operations or anything, we go to a system.”

The deployment came at the request of the New York State Division of Homeland Security.

“With more than five feet of snow on the ground in many areas, the FDNY wants to do our part to help our neighbors in western New York quickly get free from the effects of this deadly and crippling storm,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a news release.

The storms were blamed for at least 13 deaths, mostly from heart attacks and exposure. The latest was a 50-year-old man was found Friday morning in his car, which was buried in snow in Cheektowaga, police said. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

“No matter how you cut it, this event will end up in the top five for the Lake Erie area,” said National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that a 132-mile stretch of the Thruway, closed since Tuesday, will reopen at 3 p.m., with some restrictions.

Exit ramps will remain closed along the westernmost 75 miles, so, “Assume if you get on headed west you can’t get off until Pennsylvania,” Cuomo said.

With roads impassable, driving bans in effect and the Buffalo Bills’ stadium buried in snow, the NFL decided to move the Bills’ Sunday home game against the New York Jets to Monday night in Detroit.

National Guardsmen drove nurses to their hospital shifts. State troopers helped elderly residents trapped in their homes. State officials assembled 463 plows, 129 loaders and 40 dump trucks from across the state for a massive cleanup effort.

Amtrak has continued to restore rail service through the region, but with modified schedules.

Even for the Buffalo area, one of the snowiest and hardiest places in America, this was one for the history books. The three-day total is close to the nearly 8 feet that the region typically gets over an entire year.

But now the looming threat of rain and higher temperatures through the weekend and beyond raise the possibility of floods and more roofs collapsing under the heavy loads.

Little or no snow was expected on Friday and the forecast called for a chance of rain on Saturday and more on Monday, along with temperatures approaching 60 degrees.

Ideally, the FDNY team hopes to be home by Thanksgiving, but say they are prepared and equipped to stay for as long as they are needed.

Crews from Long Island have also headed to western New York to help in the effort.

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